Will a new look help the Boston Celtics escape the middle of the pack?
NBA.com’s John Schumann and ESPN’s Tim Bontemps both highlighted Evan Fournier’s impact on the Celtics Monday in their latest NBA power rankings. Fournier joined the Celtics March 25 from the Orlando Magic in an NBA trade-deadline deal, and his arrival coincided with Robert Williams’ elevation to starting center, following Daniel Theis departure in a separate deadline-day trade.
The Celtics lost their first two games with Fournier in the fold, but wins in the next two demonstrated the boost the Celtics hope he’ll add off the bench going forward. Bontemps compares Fournier’s contributions in the wins and losses to highlight the “different dimension” he brings to Boston.
” … In the two games Boston lost, Fournier scored a combined six points,” Bontemps wrote. “In the two games Boston won, he scored a combined 40. Having a shooter and scorer of his caliber coming off the bench has already given this team a different dimension, and at least gives it an opportunity to realize some of its preseason promise over the next couple of months.”
“Maybe April is the Celtics? month,” Schumann wrote. “Things were looking down (again) when they closed March (their second straight losing month), but since flipping the calendar, they?re 2-0, they?ve allowed just a point per possession, and, after a rough first two games in green, Evan Fournier is 11-for-16 from 3-point range.
“Meanwhile, the decision to turn the starting center job over to Robert Williams III is looking better than the decision to trade for Fournier. The Celtics are 4-1 with Williams as the starter and have outscored their opponents by 25 points in 44 minutes with their new starting lineup on the floor. And in his five starts, Williams has 23 assists and just three turnovers. Some of those assists have been handoffs, but the 23-year-old has an eye for open shooters and an ability to deliver sharp and on-target passes. One dime to Fournier on Friday, where he quickly determined who was open as the defense started scrambling, was particularly notable. … .”
The two-win sample size still is too small to conclude the Celtics are ready to rocket up the Eastern Conference standings or NBA power rankings, and Fournier’s looming absence from Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers won’t make assessing the new-look Boston any easier.
However, Bontemps’ and Schumann’s insights into Fournier’s and Williams’ performances illustrate why these two Celtics storylines are among the most important to follow over the stretch run of Boston’s 2020-21 season.